Full disclosure: I did not read a certain ‘professional’ magazine article last week via a paid subscription or auto feed of its content.
What I did do was:
- spot a few comments on social media about the article
- go to the CILIP website, but fail to find the article within 2 minutes
- Google ‘Dominic Cummings information professional’ and find what looked like a blog post and assume it was the same thing, and read that
- follow-up by reading further social media comments and discussing topic with peers at a regional event in a pithy, drunken manner.
Not exactly a shining example of expertise or exemplary information literacy in action, but then again I’m not a Chartered Librarian, merely an experienced information professional with an accredited postgraduate qualification, who for many years would only have qualified for an ACLIP rather than an MCLIP because of my ‘para-professional’ status, but am currently working in a role with ‘Librarian’ in the title.
I am not perfect, far from it: but I’m not an industry body purporting to be responsible for providing leadership, governance, oversight and representation for its membership and their associates. Call me old fashioned, but I actually have high expectations of people in positions of power or authority and expect them to behave accordingly, despite now living in this TrumpianBorisianBrexitystopian nightmare.
And despite my 15+ years’ worth of antipathy, for some inexplicable reason I still expect CILIP to uphold the standards, ideals and best practices which it is supposed to promote, encourage and advocate for in order to safeguard the future of the professions. Which is why the article in question, and CILIP’s response to the criticism of it on social media, has been so deflating.
CILIP continually struggles to fulfil the requirements of the role. It needs to demonstrate the behaviours and competencies expected. It has to be capable of critical reflection and reflexivity.
- What do I think of the article itself?
The currency of the content is limited, mixing old news with even older blog posts, tied together later on by a selection of interviews: there’s a lack of critical examination or contextualisation of any of the assertions made; it reads like an editorial rather than a ‘news story’ which is legitimate though problematic.
- Do I think Dominic Cummings should be interviewed in Information Professional?
Of course, I believe in freedom of the press and democracy. If an industry publication wants to interview him, then interview him. Thoroughly. Ask tough, probing questions. Challenge his world view. Examine and dissect his responses. Hold him to account for his actions and inactions. Use evidence to illustrate points and counter arguments. Take personal responsibility for the resulting output.
- Does the article endorse Cummings and/or government policy?
It reads like an editorial. It quotes the Chief Executive of CILIP, and doesn’t make clear if there are any distinctions between his views, the views of the organisation he represents, or the author of the piece. It touches upon Cumming’s opinion of the civil service which, given recent headlines, is a somewhat contentious topic functioning here as a hook for the story. The motivations for the article are unclear.
But overall, I believe the reaction to the article is more important than the article itself.
People don’t resign their membership from an organisation unless their membership meant something to them. Unless the organisation they were a member of was seen as occupying an important space or having a significant function. People don’t pay money to be a part of something collective in the first place without cause. People who aren’t members of an organisation, or who have never been a member of an organisation, don’t write blog posts or 280 character critiques about it, or raise the topic in pub-based conversations, unless the issue strikes a chord.
What CILIP does and doesn’t do matters to people across the information sectors. It matters because we need and expect a professional body which represents our best interests. It’s not going to get everything right all the time. It’s not going to be perfect. But the one thing it must be able to do is successfully maintain a relationship with both members and non-members, and right now it seems to be making mis-step after mis-step and not learning from its mistakes. Mistakes which it has been making for a long, long time.